At the entrance to a beautiful cathedral in Spain, I opened my eyes and put down the camera. It’s kismet, I suppose, that a life lesson happens in a centuries-old church.
While traveling through Spain, my best friend and I were snapping photos every two seconds. There was so much to see, so much to catalog, so much we wanted to remember. Adding to the normal “here’s me in front of the Alhambra” photos were the architectural detail shots my friend has such an eye for and the overwhelming beauty shots that I tend to try to capture on what used to be called “film.”
So, we were constantly taking picture, looking at the world around us through the camera lens. Accompanying this mission was the ridiculous complaining about other visitors “getting in the middle of our shot” or refusing to move when we were focusing in on some 14th century icon with our cameras/phones.
As we entered this particular church, an important one on our list, the guard at the door delivered the admonishment: No photos.
Not “no flash,” which we had heard numerous times. This time he said, “no photos.”
What did I feel? Anger at not being able to chronicle my trip through this church? Resentment at an “exit through the gift shop” ploy to get you to buy the book of photos on the cathedral?
No. I felt relief. And therein was the life lesson.
I realized then and there, almost three-fourths of the way through our 16-day journey through some of the most spectacular sights I will probably ever see, that I was seeing all this through an obsession with capturing the photos instead of looking with my eyes and capturing it in my mind’s eye.
I try not to impose my life lessons on others who may have other views, so I didn’t say much to my friend about my new-found realization. Later, though, I told her I was going to slow down on the photos and just concentrate on “really seeing” what was around us.
“That’s fine,” she said, “but you won’t remember where you saw what and where.”
Good point, and she’s right. As I talk to my husband about our trip, I find I am constantly referring to our timeline of where we were when.
It doesn’t matter, however. I am glad I stopped with the constant snapping. I am glad I started looking with an intensity to really see what I was seeing and imprint it on my heart and mind.
I remember coming to a similar revelation when my children were small. Video cameras – huge monstrosities that we hoisted on our shoulders – were all the rage, and my husband and I were obsessed with video-taping every soccer game, every holiday, every play date.
Half-way through one game I realized I was watching my children grow up through the lens of the video camera. It was a distorted view that took me out of the moment and distanced me from all that was actually happening in my life.
I put that camera down, too. While I love to look back at old videos and old pictures, I don’t need them to embrace those wonderful parental moments and all the great times we had when the children were younger.
I hope the same will be true of Spain. If not, well, we did exit through the gift shop, and, yes, I bought the book.